LIWF day 2: elegant, pure fruited Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon & a vertical of Rustenberg John X Merriman

At yesterday’s London Wine Fair I started as I meant to go on, with a Cabernet kick in the delightful form of a vertical of Stellenbosch producer Rustenberg’s flagship John X Merriman (2008, 05, 04, 03, 01 & 99).  Sometimes Cabernet-led, sometimes Merlot-led with a smattering of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and, just in the 2008 Malbec, each and every vintage of this well structured yet elegant wine impressed.    The 99 had developed notes of star anise and hints of leather but retained a lovely, lively core of fruit.  Difficult to pull out favourites but if push came to shove, I’d plump for the 99, 2004  and 2008.

My afternoon leg focused on Margaret River as I was presenting a Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon Masterclass on behalf of Margaret River Wine Industry Association whose recipe book (pictured) highlights the food-friendliness of their wines.  And sure enough, there was plenty of appreciative feedback for the freshness and fruit purity of  this iconic Western Australian region’s Cabernets.  Highlights included the perfumed Howard Park Leston 2008 from this particularly elegant, classic vintage (and I notice that Matthew Jukes’ just released 100 Best Australian Wines 2011 rates Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 as their best ever).

With a dash of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, the Fraser Gallop Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 impressed with its bright layers and lifted, spicy persistence.  Our final pair of older wines perfectly illustrated the difference between Margaret River’s different “sub-regions.”  Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 from southerly Wallcliffe was restrained and sinewy, while the muscular Woodlands Rachael Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 from warmer Wilyabrup rippled with dark savoury fruit.

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